Colorado Rapids 2 defeated Premier League 2 side Wolves U-21 in a 2-1 victory in the inaugural MLS NEXT Pro Invitational on Wednesday night. Defender Anthony Markanich and striker Dantouma “Yaya” Toure were the two goal scorers of the night, earning the team their third consecutive win in two weeks.
"A really positive experience that was well worth our time and travel,” said Erik Bushey, Rapids 2 head coach. “I am grateful that the club sponsored this and allowed us to come because it was a good experience for our guys. I thought there were certainly moments where we were tested in some of the movement from Wolves, but there were many moments when we were in control, and we looked confident on the ball. It is good to score goals and it is very good to win. Overall, I am super happy with the experience."
The Rapids took the field on Wednesday night seeking bragging rights in the league’s first-ever international competition. The two sides appeared to be evenly matched from the jump with both teams constructing clean passing lanes and solid runs up the pitch in the first 20 minutes of the match.
Colorado managed to keep its composure as the minutes ticked on and finally found their first dangerous opportunity in the 26th minute. Yosuke Hanya carried the ball through the Wolves’ backline and slipped a through ball to the feet of Darren Yapi who put up a close range shot forcing the Wolves’ keeper to make his first of five saves on the night.
The Wolves immediately returned the threat with two back to back free kicks from just outside the 18-yard box. The second free kick was taken with force and challenged Abraham Rodriguez to make his first save of the night on a direct shot to goal. Rodriguez would ultimately end the half with three saves before making a swap with rookie goalkeeper Adam Beaudry at the half.
An earned corner kick gave the Rapids their last scoring opportunity before the half with Robinson Aguirre standing over the ball. Aguirre served the ball to the far post to an eager Anthony Markanich who got a head on the ball but was unable to take advantage of the final opportunity in the dying minutes.
With the teams level heading into the second half, it remained anyone’s game to find the opener. Just 13 minutes in, the Rapids earned their third free kick of the night from just outside the box. Aguirre again stood over the ball and served a perfectly placed ball to the far post where Markanich saw his chance to record his first Rapids 2 goal of the season. The defender managed to get a head on the ball and slide it past the Wolves’ keeper for Colorado’s first of the night in the 53rd minute of the match.
"When the free kick happened, I told Rob (Aguirre) that the back post is always open. I told him to aim it there and it was a perfect ball to my head, and I just tapped it in really. Getting my first goal, I just think it is really a stepping stone to more goals hopefully,” said Markanich.
However, the one goal lead was short lived for the home side as the Wolves quickly evened the score with a goal in the 54th minute from striker Nathan Fraser.
The half continued with a persistent Colorado attack putting up five shots on goal for a total of seven on the night. Toure led the offensive charge with four shots on target, one of which proved to be the game winner in the 73rd minute.
The striker maneuvered his way around the Wolves’ defense, picking up a deflection off the opponent’s backline. He proceeded to rip a shot into the Wolves’ keeper who got a leg on the ball but could not retain possession, allowing Toure to take a second go at goal off the rebound to give the Rapids their final goal of the night. With that goal, Toure earned himself his fifth goal in the Rapids last three matches, continuing to lead the team in goals scored this season.
“Overall, for the group I think every win is valuable,” said Bushey. “It doesn't matter who we play, when we play, league or non-league. We are trying to build and when we can build success on top of success, it creates momentum. Guys will feel good about that, and guys will know we are in a good way. That allows us to expect more and that is what we keep talking about, trying to raise the standards so we can increase the expectations and that is what performances and results like tonight do for us."